Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Your Freedom To Choose What I Want

In the course of my usual blog arguments this morning, a paragraph caught my eye. From an Investor's Business Daily editorial about Jimmy Carter, and his less-than-vicious statements about Hamas.

When one party has started a civil war, democracy isn't exactly the issue anymore. ...Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly points out that those who are elected democratically have an obligation to govern democratically or they aren't democrats. Hamas has blown its right to democracy.

Now understand I'm not crazy about Jimmy Carter, and Hamas is a bunch of war-mongering lunatics masquerading as a political party. But what the hell is this anonymous editorialist getting at here? I'll paraphrase: We, the United States, are the judges of whether your elections should count. The editorial doesn't dispute that the Palestinian vote was orderly and fair (well he does put "scare quotes" around that term, and later the word "won", but that's not the same as disputing) he merely disputes the RIGHT of them to govern since he doesn't like how they're doing it.

Democracy is a messy business, and if you are going to encourage the people to choose their leaders, you better be prepared for them to do it. We have been trying to cram Democracy down the sandy throats of the Middle East for a long time now; if we tell them "you need to pick a leader we LIKE" then we're selling defective product. And they don't exactly love doing business with us now, effendi.

The editorial also says "No one in the West is obligated to support an international terrorist organization just because it "won" an election. The proper response is to cut it off until it renounces violence." I agree with that. If they want our help, we can demand that they act a certain way. It's hypocritical to demand non-violence out of Hamas, but not unreasonable. If they have something we want, we can change our behaviors too. Fair exchange.


Skot said...

What? Democracy in Gaza? Where?

Election don't mean democracy. There were plenty of elections in Stalinist Russia, and there have hatfuls of them all throughout the Middle East (well, burnoose-fuls of them, at least). They are essentially meaningless. Democratic societies are built on the practice of democracy and a reliable, trustworthy, and above all, consenting social contact between the government and the governed. Don't believe for a second the Islamist parties took power legitimately in Gaza.

In this country, we may feel those in high office are operating outside our consent, but we sleep well at night knowing the GOP isn't going to steal the copper wire leading to our houses (the local militias in Gaza were known to do that) or stone us to death for adultery.

Elections are a sort of fad amongst totalitarian and authoritarian governments, a way of legitimizing their power on the international stage.

In terms of realpolitik, I'm going to paraphrase P. J. O'Rourke: There can be no meaningful elections in a society where it is personally dangerous (or possibly fatal) to have certain opinions. Imagine the canvassing:

"Hello, Mr. Peasant! I'm an anonymous, inquisitive stranger. God knows who I work for. In next week's elections, are you going to vote for the ruling party, or can I go ahead and tear up your ration card right now?"


Danielk said...

Granted, my premise is based on the Hamas election having been legitimate, i.e. without tampering and coercion above western levels. But I believe I read that's the case here. Coercion may not have been necessary because the people found Hamas an attractive option. I'm not saying they won't try to fix the NEXT election.

skot said...

About this NEXT election: How do you go about fixing an election that is not only already fixed, but is a meaningless exercise in political theater?

The unbound middle of your argument seems to require the flowering of legitmate democracy in Palestinian Gaza sometime in... say, our lifetime. Inshallah.

Ain't holdin' by breath...


wamk said...

As I recall, Hamas "won" by getting lots of locals to vote/support Hamas candidates in local elections, which got them more seats at the big table. Didn't they win the majority of seats in what would be compared to our House? After gaining the majority of seats there, then they turned their sights on taking over.

Also, I like your title to this entry. Can I assume you are opposed to the "Fairness Doctrine" being reinstated then?

Skot said...

Hamas "won" the so-called elections because the international community insisted the Palestinians have some sort of elections. How could the Hamas thugs resist such a sucker play for legitmacy? So, yeah, they're kind of our fault.

Of course, if there were some more pragmatic voices in the international community, they'd have seen that Gaza ain't Vermont. Like much of the Middle East, they're still toying with some version of medieval theocratic rule, not post-enlightenment representative government.

"Fairness Doctrine?" What on earth does the FCC have to do with Hamas?


Danielk said...

Fairness doctrine: call it a running Where Are My Keys gag. And WAMK, you may assume what you like - it's what makes America great!

I've said it before, but it's mighty fascinating that the right is opposed to the Fairness Doctrine AND constantly whining that the media has an unfair liberal bias. A solution is right there in your grasp!

wamk said...

I just find it fascinating that if something is put on TV that folks on the Right don't like, we are told "The TV has an on/off button. You can turn the set off if you don't like what is on."

But when the Right has AM radio, and the Left doesn't like Rush, Hannity, Beck, Ingraham, Medved, et al, we are told that "The airwaves belong to the public", and "Both sides need to be heard."

Can't Liberals just turn off their radios, the same way Conservatives have been told to turn off their TVs?

Danielk said...

Oh we have, we have. Check out Limbaugh's numbers lately.